In many parts of Europe and especially the UK the pub has represented, for the lion’s share of the last few centuries, an extra living room. The pub in many small towns and villages was not a place to simply grab a pint, but a focal point of socialization for the whole area. I specifically say “a” vs. “the” focal point because in most villages of any really size you were/quite likely to find more than one pub. These community living rooms were not a bastions of drunkards and misbehaviour but a place of conversation and contemplation. It would not be uncommon to walk into the pub and see several people you knew, or at the very least leave with new people you’d know. A pub as a living room might confuse some North Americans, but I assure you walking into an old pub you’d immediately see why. Unlike the perfect, up-to-code super pubs we have here in North America European Pubs have always been perfectly-imperfect. Low ceilings, carpeted floors, 8 different levels in a 600 square foot pub are all part of the charm of pub that you know could never be recreated anywhere else in the world. Of course like all good things, this pub culture seems to be waning. Super Pubs, up to code in every way imaginable are all over Europe too, and pubs and general in the UK have been on the decline for years. Young people sip international conglomerate lagers… and old people do too, but there is some hope. The real ale movement was born in the UK and it remains strong, and its still remains common to know you barman (Barperson) as well as you know your neighbour but its clear its impossible to stop the world from turning.
As far as I can tell we here in Vancouver generally have never created the sense of place in our pubs and bars as they do in the UK. The legacy of prohibition looms heavy over pubs, even though alcohol has little to do with the culture of pub (how much did I mention drunkeness above?). We’ve only recently seen a image makeover for alcoholic drinks and as far as we’ve come we still clearly have far to go. But alas, there is hope.
I spend a lot of time in breweries thanks to this blog. I would say I’m in one at least five times a week, and in short I’m encouraged by what I see. Tasting rooms and lounges are not places to get drunk, they are places to taste delicious beers, for that reason it seems that tasting rooms do not have the same negative stigmas attached to them. Young couples and grandparents stop by for an afternoon dark lager, running clubs come in for post run ale, and business made discuss stock options over a kettle sour… and they all talk. This talk is key, It’s not the screaming over the music “I’M GOING TO THE BATHROOM!” at a bar on a friday night, its an honest to god conversation about anything and everything… that’s cool. It doesn’t stop there though, because people talk to the staff about the beers, and as tasting rooms and lounges get crowded (as they often do) people share tables and talk to new people too. You might enter with a buddy and leave with two. So as much as the beer is delicious what I’m most excited by in Breweries of Vancouver are the human connections being built.